Alert! Artificially ripened mangoes flood Guwahati markets

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Alert! Artificially ripened mangoes flood Guwahati markets

Nehal Jain | May 25, 2019 16:31 hrs

With the holy month of Ramazan on-going, mangoes and papayas have flooded the Guwahati markets. However, the large quantity of mangoes occupying prime places on shelves in the markets of the city ahead of its season raises concerns over the use of harmful chemicals for ripening them. 

At a time when unscrupulous traders unflinchingly lace fruit such as mangoes and papayas with calcium carbide to ripen them before the natural course, the Food & Safety Department of Kamrup (M) is conducting inspections at regular intervals.
 
Teams of Food Safety Officers (FSOs) have been conducting regular inspections at the market places and have so far destroyed over 70 quintals of mangoes and three quintals of papayas that were seized from Fancy Bazar area of the city. 

“Traders keep calcium carbide in small packets inside the fruit cartoons to ripen them within 24 hours. The practice is illegal and an area of concern as human health is at stake,” informed a senior official in the Food & Safety Department. 

He further added, “The demand is more. People want to buy only ripened mangoes. Hence, chemicals like carbide are widely used in a number of godowns which can be quite harmful for the consumers.” 

The first drive of the season against artificially ripened fruits was conducted on May 17, Friday. A team of officials from Food & Safety Department, Kamrup (M) district seized huge quantities of chemically treated mangoes and papayas in Fancy Bazar area. 
According to a senior official, the team first found 12.5 quintals of mangoes ripened using calcium carbide from a shop owned by Sambu and Sohan Shah in the fruit market. 

In another raid conducted on the same day at a godown rented by one Bimal Das, the officials caught people packing raw mangoes in a cartoon along with packets of calcium carbide. From there, they seized 10 quintals of mangoes and 3 quintals of papayas that were being artificially ripened using the hazardous chemical.

Similarly, the department carried out another raid in Fancy Bazar area on May 21, Monday and seized a total of 51 quintals of mango. 

Officials informed G Plus that while 36 quintals of mangoes were seized in an operation conducted in the wee hours of Monday, another 15 quintals of mangoes were seized from a truck headed towards the market later that day.

The carbide fruits were immediately destroyed, informed officials. The fruits, in the presence of citizens and media persons, are crushed using Guwahati Municipal Corporation’s truck lorries that then dump the destroyed fruits at Boragaon dumping ground. 

The department has also arrested two persons in connection with artificial ripening of mangoes using harmful chemicals such as calcium carbide. 

The arrested have been identified as Niranjan Roy and Shaikh Nurul Islam, both fruit vendors that have set up stalls in Fancy Bazar. The Food & Safety Department has also seized two godowns located at the backside of the GMC market in Fancy Bazar however the owners have been absconding.
 
It should be mentioned that fruits that are treated with carbide, a fruit ripening harsh chemical, hastens the ripening of fruits within 24 hours. Consumption of carbide treated fruits can often lead to health hazards like stomach pain, skin diseases and even cancer.
  
According to regulation 2.3.5 of Food Safety & Standard (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations, 2011, “No person shall sell or offer or expose for sale or have in his premises for the purpose of sale under any description, fruits which have been artificially ripened by use of acetylene gas, commonly known as carbide gas.” 

The use of calcium carbide for ripening fruits is banned and the offence carries a prison term ranging from six months to life and a fine ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakhs. The jurisdictional police can also arrest the offenders.

What happens when fruits are treated with carbide?

•    Fruits that are artificially ripened with carbide tend to be softer to simulate appearance and feel of naturally ripened fruits. However, as is expected from chemically treated edibles, they taste inferior and have a disappointing flavour. 

•    Because the chemical is used to provide a cosmetic lift, it only makes the fruit appear ripe from the outside while the inside still remains green or raw.

•    Fruits that are extremely raw need to be given a higher dosage of calcium carbide and this can make the fruit even more tasteless, and sometimes, toxic.

Why fear carbide fruits?

•    Eye contact with carbide may result in permanent eye damage or blindness. It may cause stinging pain, severe burns, watering of eyes, inflammation of eyelids and conjunctivitis, opacity and scarring. 

•    Its contact with skin causes irritation and possible burns, especially if the skin is wet or moist.

•    Upon ingestion, it causes digestive, respiratory and gastrointestinal tract burns, nausea, vomiting, bloating and headache.

•    Calcium carbide also has the potential to cause cancer and contains traces of phosphorus hydride and arsenic.

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